SECRET - Social-Economic and Cultural Rights of Prisoners and Ex-prisoners in Tajikistan

SECRET - Social-Economic and Cultural Rights of Prisoners and Ex-prisoners in Tajikistan

Strengthening the social, economic and cultural rights of one of the most vulnerable groups

When I came here I felt like I could stretch my wings. Whenever I face challenges, I pass by their office or call them.



Prisoners and ex-prisoners are especially vulnerable groups in Tajikistan given their limited access to general and secondary education or vocational training. Nurek prison has no vocational training facility even though the prisoners are entitled to such education according to Tajik law. After being released from prison many ex-prisoners struggle to reintegrate society and lack professional orientation, psychological support and legal consultation.


  • Contribute to the realisation of social, economic and cultural rights for one of the most disadvantaged group of the population; female prisoners and ex-prisoners, and to expand access to and availability of education through vocational training and development, civic education and personal development programmes for these two groups.


  • Five social re-integration service desks established in four cities are offering free legal and psychological services for ex-prisoners (estimated coverage to date is 60 ex-prisoners).
  • Three training facilities have been rehabilitated and equipped and two facilities are being finalized at the womens' prison.
  • The female prison library was enriched with new books in three languages: Tajik, Russian and Uzbek.
  • 20 prison and penal execution staff have been trained in international standards of custodial supervision and penitentiary psychology.
  • Four vocational courses on computer skills and sewing were launched, 40 female prisoners and four master trainers being mentored by adult trainers.
  • 49 female prisoners are currently involved in the civic education and personal development trainings at the female prison.
  • A one-week study tour on access to education, information and labour rights in penitentiary system was arranged for 11 prison supervisory staff, the Main Department on Penalty Execution staff and the implementing staff, to gain exposure to the educational opportunities provided by the penitentiary institutions in Brandenburg, Germany.


  • EU contribution to the project: €300 000 (75% of total budget).
  • Duration: 2 years (2014-2016).
  • Areas/regions covered by the project: Nurek prison, Dushanbe, Khorog, Khujand and Kurgantube.
  • Beneficiaries of the project: 150 female prisoners and approximately 600 ex-prisoners of both genders.



An ex-convict's story about life after prison

When Ismoil (fictitious name), a 41-year-old man, graduated from school in the city of Vahdat in 1992, he got his driver's licence and was hoping to get a job as a driver. But in the same year, the civil war started and he was forced to take arms and fight. In 1998, when the war was over, Tajikistan was devastated and Ismoil was put in prison for participating in the war. After nine years in prison, Ismoil was released. While leaving prison meant freedom, it also meant being unemployed. Ismoil had to deal with his lack of professional experience and education on his own, as he had no friends, no social network, nor any other type of support on the outside. On top of that, as an ex-convict, Ismoil was an easy target for harassment from the police, who would find any excuse to arrest and harass him. Through a friend who is still in prison, he heard of the services provided at the Service Desk for ex-prisoners in Dushanbe by the Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law (BHR), DVV's local partner NGO. The project has a unit in four Tajik cities, providing free legal and psychological counselling for former convicts. They also refer clients to centres that provide treatment for those who abuse drugs and alcohol, a very common problem among ex-prisoners. The project also works with capacity development inside prisons, targeting both prison staff and convicts in Nurek Women's Prison, with the aim to improve conditions inside and prepare prisoners for life outside the walls. Zarrina Alimshoeva, the centre’s psychologist, says that clients who come to her are often traumatised, afraid and lack self-esteem. For Ismoil, receiving the services of Zarrina and her colleague became a turning point in his life. "When I came to Zarrina, I felt like I could stretch my wings. Whenever I face any challenges, I pass by or call them", says Ismoil. The lawyer at the centre has managed to help Ismoil deal with groundless indemnity claims from authorities and Zarrina has helped him restore his self-confidence. Today, Ismoil has a job as a forest ranger and he is hoping that, someday, he will get promoted, earn more money and regain the respect he diserves. After coming in contact with the BHR Service Desk, he does not feel so lonely anymore. "After I was released I had no friends. Right now I have a lawyer and a psychologist and I see them as my friends", says Ismoil.